The 10,000 mile guilt trip
The air was warm, but not desert-like scorching. The waves were rawkus enough that Big Guy was impressed with his own "surfing," but not so rowdy that I had to call him back to the shore. We scarfed a month's worth of junk food - hamburgers, fries, cotton candy and slushees - and made the required purchase of extra clothing when someone ran out. It was me this time.
Within minutes of getting back into the van, the guys were snoring, sweet smiles dancing across their faces.
My phone rang, and after I described the day to Dad, he said, "I'm glad you all had a great time."
He meant it sincerely, without a trace of sarcasm. But that was the point when I stopped having a great time, as memories of last fall's beach trip rushed in like the tide that had destroyed Boots' architecture. Why was I entitled to have a great time, a day of memories with the guys, when their father was 10,000 miles away struggling to sleep in a war zone?
And that's when I discovered that my whining that "waaa, he's not here on special days" was not totally about his absence. It's also about the fact that the world keeps turning and life keeps going on even when he's not around - a fact that causes guilt to gnaw at me at times.
Why do I get to enjoy birthday parties while he watches them a week after the fact on a homemade DVD? Why do I get to see the guys' first hits on the diamond while their father's hoping he doesn't get hit? It just doesn't seem fair.
Just as I'd heard that a pre-deployment marital meltdown was virtually inevitable, I'd also been warned that this one was coming, too. "It is not uncommon to feel guilty that you are able to continue to do things you enjoy while your husband is deployed," a blogger wrote at marriedtothearmy.com.
For the most part I've avoided the issue by playing "I Know What You're Not Going to Do This Summer." We haven't been near an amusement park - that part was easy, because I hate them anyway - and we haven't gone to a single ballgame. We've found different things to do instead. Drive-in movies and a lengthy vacation back east that let the guys learn the joy of playing in the rain.
A few weeks ago, though, the guys were begging to go to the beach. School was starting in a few days, so I agreed.
We didn't go anywhere the rest of the weekend, except for the school-supply shopping that makes Dad crazy anyway. We do have tickets for a NASCAR race in October, and I'm sure I'll feel the pangs again, not because Dad's not there but because we are.
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.